Yesterday, a comment on my dvar Torah reminded me of one of my favourite parables. Someone asked me about an incident which occured during the exodus from Mitzrayim, in which the Red Sea ‘closed’ upon the Egyptians, drowning them as soon as the Israelites had made their way to dry land. The angels wished to sing about this victory, and celebrate the deaths of the wicked Egyptians who had enslaved- then pursued- the Chosen People. But G-d did not let them. Instead, he rebuked them, asking ”How can you sing about the deaths of My creations?”. Truly, G-d considered the Egyptians His creations, right down to the last minute, and expressed remorse over the necessary act of killing them to save the Israelites. And this parable teaches us an important lesson about life. It doesn’t just teach us about G-d’s everlasting love, a love which led to mourning the deaths of even His wickedest creations, but it also warns us against rejoicing in our enemies’ despair.
Pride always comes before a fall, and for many, it can be truly satisfying to watch an enemy’s downfall. This can come in many forms. It may occur when a coworker one dislikes loses his job, or when one succeeds and his opponent fails, or even when one finds that the person he despises is simply having a bad day. And because we know gloating is wrong, we can often refrain from bringing up these incidents, but in our hearts, we sometimes rejoice over another’s misfortune. Recently, I was blessed to make a lifestyle change I had been pursuing for many years. Unfortunately, it made someone else very unhappy. Everyone else who witnessed this was delighted, and made jokes at this other person’s expense, but as I thought about the incident at the Red Sea, I realised that it is far from G-dly to mock another, and to take delight in his misfortune. The lesson couldn’t have been better timed, and I was astounded at how miraculously it had been brought to me.
Next time you witness the misfortune of someone you disagree with, think about G-d’s love for all His creations, and the remorse He felt upon their death; then try and incorporate this lesson into your life. For truly, the best revenge is living well, and it is impossible to live well so long as we bear hatred within us.